Con­quer con­tact eva­sions

We show you how

Your Horse (UK) - - Contents -

CON­TACT CAN BE de­scribed as a soft, steady con­nec­tion be­tween your hands and your horse’s mouth, with him go­ing for­wards con­fi­dently from your driv­ing aid and seek­ing the hands. This steady con­tact al­lows your horse to bal­ance and find his rhythm. It should never be forced by pulling back­wards but gained through your horse re­act­ing to your leg aids. In lat­eral work, cir­cles and corners, your horse will work from the in­side leg to the out­side rein but he still needs to be in a con­tact. A re­spon­sive, sup­ple horse will find ev­ery move­ment eas­ier and he’ll move more con­fi­dently from the ba­sics to ad­vanced work. It’s key that ex­er­cises tack­ling sup­ple­ness and re­spon­sive­ness are in­cluded in ev­ery ses­sion to im­prove the con­nec­tion. Con­tact ap­plies in ev­ery move­ment and gait, in­clud­ing the halt. It should be in­cluded in a young horse’s ba­sic train­ing – it’s vi­tal he un­der­stands it from the start of his ed­u­ca­tion to avoid is­sues later. You’ll hear rid­ers say, ‘ride from leg to hand’ when ex­plain­ing con­tact.

What is con­tact eva­sion?

Eva­sions can be sub­tle so you’ll need to tune in to how your horse is feel­ing un­der­neath you. It can be help­ful to have some­one on the ground to watch and ex­plain what they’re see­ing. The most com­mon eva­sions are: drop­ping be­hind the leg, pok­ing his nose out, lift­ing his head (pic­tured above), drop­ping the bit, cross­ing the jaw, not work­ing in a frame (of­ten be­ing hol­low in the back), stiff­ness in his body and open­ing his mouth and set­ting against the hands. When work­ing cor­rectly in a con­tact, he’ll be sup­ple, with his hindlegs reach­ing

un­der­neath his body. His head (from ears to nose) is ver­ti­cal to the ground with the poll be­ing the high­est point and he’ll look soft and light. If he can main­tain a con­tact on one rein but strug­gles on the other, this is likely to be a weak­ness on that side, which needs work be­fore true con­tact can be achieved.

The rider’s role

You’ll need to ride in bal­ance with­out us­ing the hands as sta­bilis­ers and have a good po­si­tion. Core strength is re­quired, as is sup­ple­ness through the joints. Al­though we are all crooked and pos­si­bly find one rein eas­ier than the other, it’s im­por­tant to recog­nise this and com­pen­sate for any weak­ness. Your horse needs to trust that you’ll use the aids cor­rectly.

Go­ing be­hind the ver­ti­cal is a com­monly seen con­tact eva­sion

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